It’s a story we’ve told before on these pages, but it bears repeating. The year was 2018, at a press Q&A, Bobby questioned Proton CEO Dr Li Chunrong on the wisdom of launching a product as expensive as the X70 when Proton’s brand image among Malaysians at the time was shaky at best.

Many of us privately opined that a prudent move would have been to start off Proton’s SUV journey with a more modest B-segment entry and build the brand from there before bringing in the more ambitious X70.

Without missing a beat, Dr Li turned around and pointed proudly at the then-new X70, “This. This car would build our brand!”

And history would prove the man right. In one fell swoop, the X70 completely transformed Proton’s image. Suddenly, Proton showrooms were customers arriving in E-Classes and Vellfires. That, along with product improvements implemented on existing models, has put Proton back firmly on the path of growth.

Suddenly, it is no longer a question of whether Proton will reclaim top spot on the sales charts; it has become a question of when.

If the X70 was the car that put Proton back into Champions League qualification, the upcoming X50 will be the one that fires them to the title.

As we publish this, the X50 has yet to come to our hands for a comprehensive review, but we have learned plenty in recent weeks, and we know a winner when we see one.

Riding on strong momentum of revival brought by the X70, Proton is now ready to strike even harder with the X50.

WORDS KON

Coming of the

Second Wave

Quote Open Block

“When you have a great product, you are earning money while you are doing your branding and marketing. Because you brand and market yourself via your great products. And that’s what Proton has been doing the past one and a half years.” - Bobby

There will be four variants to choose from:

1.5T STANDARD

• 1.5L Turbo Engine, 150PS

• 7-speed DCT

• 4 Airbags (Front & Side)

• LED Headlamps, DRLs

• 17" Alloy Wheels

• Fabric Seats

• Rear A/C Vents

• Analog Instrument Cluster

• Keyless Entry, Remote Engine Start

• 8" Touchscreen

• Standard Voice Command

• 4 Speakers

• Reverse Sensors

• Reverse Camera

1.5T EXECUTIVE

• 6 Airbags (Front, Side, Curtain)

• Auto Headlamps

• Front Fog Lamps

• Leatherette Seats

• Leather Steering Wheel

• Front Parking Sensors

1.5T PREMIUM

18" Alloy Wheels

• Roof Rails

• Digital LCD Instrument Cluster

• 10.25" Touchscreen

• Enhanced Voice Command

• 6 Speakers

• Auto Air-Con

• 360-degree Camera

• Tyre Pressure Monitor

• Driver Seat Power Adjustment

1.5 TGDi FLAGSHIP

• 1.5L TGDi Engine, 177PS

• Advanced Driver Assist

• SystemDual Tone

• ExteriorPanoramic Sunroof

Quote Open Block

“The X50 will surely be an even greater turning point for Proton than the X70 was.” - Nazz

We’ve known all along that the X50 was going to come with Geely’s 1.5-litre three-cylinder turbo engine. What caught us by surprise was that there are going to be two variations of it - a 150PS port injection derivative is being offered alongside the 177PS direct injection version that everybody was expecting.

The higher output direct injection engine is offered exclusively for the range-topping flagship model, but the port injection variant was a previously-unknown development. These two engines will feature heavily in upcoming Proton models. Here in the X50, they are both mated to a 7-speed wet clutch DCT powering the front wheels.

TWO ENGINES, THREE CYLINDERS

HOW MUCH?

AT A GLANCE – PROTON'S NEW ENGINE FAMILY

BACKGROUND

Geely & Volvo joint development

Testing: 1.9 million km

(more than 40 times around the world)

Used in more than 550,000 cars worldwide

MECHANICAL

POWER CURVE

TORQUE CURVE

ENGINE TYPE

DISPLACEMENT

INDUCTION

FUEL INJECTION

1.5L T

1,477cc

Turbocharged

Port

1.5 TGDi

1,477cc

Turbocharged

Direct

POWER

TORQUE

VVT

FUEL CONSUMPTION

150PS

226Nm

Dual VVT

6.5 l/100km

177PS

255Nm

Dual VVT

6.4 l/100km

As with the X70, Proton has extensively retuned the X50’s driving dynamics to better suit Malaysian needs. What we were surprised to learn is that our homegrown engineers had actually softened the car for greater comfort bias after find the donor car, the Geely Binyue to be too stiff and too harsh for our roads.

The local ride & handling team focused their attention on retuning the X50’s electric power steering, which has four selectable modes, whilst also altering spring and damper rates. A new anti-roll bar completes the revisions. Our quick impression – the softer setup allows a fair bit of roll on the slalom course, but handling was largely tidy.

PROTON RIDE & HANDLING – MORE COMFY BIAS

Quote Open Block

“The roadholding is pretty good. Proton ride and handling is very prevalent in this car. It’s quite surefooted.” - Chris Wee

As expected, the X50 scores highly in safety, but we must penalize marks for offering the Standard variant with only 4 airbags. That little quibble aside, the X50 sets new standards not only for its segment but higher up as well, with first in class offering of Level 2 Autonomous Driving assistance.

The level of safety tech on offer surpasses even the X70, as the X50 sits on a much newer platform designed from the onset to accommodate more sophisticated technology.

SAFETY – FIRST IN CLASS WITH LEVEL 2 AUTONOMOUS DRIVING

Blind Spot Information System

Two warning levels if vehicle detected in blind spot:

• LED embedded in side mirror lights up

• If driver signals, warning beep sound with LED in side mirror blinking

Intelligent High Beam Control

Automatically activated above 40km/h in low ambient light.

Forward Collision Warning

• Acute Warning Brake (AWB) - brake jerk

• Pre-Collision Warning (PCW) - audio visual warning

• Safe Distance Alarm - visual warning

Autonomous Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Detection

• Pedestrian detection up 70 km/h

• Stationary vehicle detection up to 80 km/h

• Moving vehicle detection from 4 to 150 km/h

Lane Departure Warning

Lane Keep Assist

Adaptive Cruise Control with Stop & Go

Follows vehicle in front to stop and continues to follow within 3 seconds.

Intelligent Cruise Control

• Forward motion control by ACC

• Directional control by LKA and lane centering

• Driver needs to keep hands on steering wheel.

Adaptive Cruise Control with Stop & Go

• Reverse parking

• Side parking

• Side parking exit

COLOUR OPTIONS

Snow white

Armour Silver

Jet Grey

Ocean Blue

Citric Orange

Passion Red

Nothing much needs further saying. The X50 will be a winner. Our experience with the car thus far has been brief, but they are telling. Design-wise, it’s a looker; interior, it makes the BMW X1 feel like a downgrade; and to round it off, performance and features that soundly beat everything else in the price range.

The X50’s value proposition is so soundly convincing that it has become almost impossible to recommend anything else at the same price range. Indeed, the new City and Almera couldn’t have picked a worse time to enter the market.

What’s more, thanks to the X70’s success, the X50 no longer carries the burden of a tainted brand. Latest official numbers we have put the X50’s booking numbers in the region of 20,000, but we have no doubts that figure will double in no time. Warning though, fake agents are popping up to take fraudulent bookings from unsuspecting customers, so be careful who you hand the cheque to.

THE OUTLOOK

Quote Open Block

“This car will render the entire B-segment almost irrelevant.” - Kon

RM79,200

RM84,800

RM93,200

RM103,300

90% LOAN, 9 YEARS, 2.22%

RM1,030 / month

RM930 / month

RM840 / month

RM790 / month

STANDARD

EXECUTIVE

PREMIUM

FLAGSHIP

+RM240 / month

ALTERNATIVES IN THE PRICE RANGE

Honda HR-VRM104k - RM118k

DIRECT COMPACT CROSSOVER RIVALS

Hp/RPM

177PS @ 5,500rpm

150PS @ 5,500rpm

Nm/RPM

255Nm @ 1,500 - 4,000rpm

226Nm @ 1,500 - 4,000rpm

BMW X1 sDrive20i

190

280

Proton X50 FLAGSHIP

177

255

Audi Q3 1.4 TFSI

150

250

Proton X50 PREMIUM

150

226

Mazda CX-30 1.8 Diesel

116

270

Only RM263 / month more than a Myvi

Subaru XVRM112k - RM134k

Mitsubishi ASXRM119k - RM125k

Hyundai KonaRM124k - RM152k

Kia Seltos

Pick-up trucks

B-segment sedans & hatchbacks

Budget 1.5-litre 7-seater MPVs

Proton X70 Standard

Mazda CX-30RM145k - RM170k

Hyundai Kona 1.6T 177PS @ 5,500rpm

Hyundai Kona 1.6T 265PS @ 1,500 -  4,500rpm